Katadhin Woods & Waters National Monument
Next door to Baxter State Park in Maine is a new American monument established in 2016. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWWNM) is 87,000 acres of pine trees, rivers and mountains in northwest Maine.
Getting there is no easy task. Considering the remote location of this monument, going to KWWNM requires a lot of planning and preparation. You need to have everything, and I mean everything you think you will require while there. Once in the monument, there are no stores, gas, food or water. The only indication that you know you are even in the park are a few small signs on trees. Once at the trailhead you are nearly an hour from the nearest gas station. With all this in mind, the area provides a rare opportunity to explore vast wilderness on your own.
Weather: Sunny, 73
On a Scale of 1 to 5
What is the best way to get to KWWNM?
There are two major routes into the monument. If you search via Google directions it will take you to Millinocket and then into the park. We took this route going in and found it to be longer in time. The road runs parallel to the interstate so when we were going home, we took the Swift Brook Road all the way into Sherman, ME and onto I-95. Next time I go, I am taking this route. We timed ourselves coming out and it is an hour from the Barnard parking area to Sherman. From Sherman to Bangor is 1 hour. There is an Irving gas station in Sherman that you can get fuel and supplies.
What will you need to navigate in the park?
First off you will need:
- a map. I purchased the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument Waterproof Trail Map. I found that this map was the best. Another option is the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer.
- a GPS navigation system.
I use GaiaGPS on my iPhone and downloaded the Gaia base map and the Outdoors map layers. Another navigation app I used was Avenza. I purchased the Katahdin Woods & Waters Trail Map and found it very similar to my above paper map. I also bought the Milinocket area map but didn’t find it very helpful. I used the GaiaGPS on my car navigation system until we entered the park, then switched over to the Avenza map. As always, I used GaiaGPS for all trail navigation.
Once you past Staceyville, Maine the road turns into a gravel logging road. Note, the logging trucks have the right of way. The road when you intially enter is a little rough. As you make it further in, it’s a pretty decent road. There are plenty of rocks sticking out and good sized potholes that would wreck havoc on your vehicle. I’m not saying one couldn’t get a sedan car in there, but every vehicle we saw was a SUV or truck. Enter at your own risk. Also there is no cell reception that I could find, though I did see a sign indicating an area that had it.
Once we entered the monument as indicated by a very small sign, we turned north onto Katahdin Loop Road. I was under the impression that the loop road was one way only, however we saw no signs that indicated that. If we had gone clockwise on the loop it would have added an additional 9 miles to our trip. Five miles later we arrived at the parking area, which as shown in the sattellite picture is very small. We were there on a Labor Day weekend which is probaly the busiest it will ever be throughout the year. Parking was tight and if you go I recommend parking at the blue arrow as it prevents others from blocking you in.
The summit has a nice picnic table and amazing views of Katahdin Mountain. After waiting for everyone that was at the summit to clear out, I set up my Packtenna Random wire only to realize that the 2mm bullet connector was missing. Luckily I a spare wire and connector that I used as a counterpoise. Using my multi-tool I was able to do a quick field expedient repair and twist the wires together and sealing with electrical tape that I keep on my mast. My mast also gave me issues and I had to re-tape the top piece to keep it all in one piece.
In the future, I am going to start carry 3m Scotchlok connectors as they don’t require any tools and are perfect for antenna element wire quick repairs in the field.
I started out with CW on my KX3 on 14.058 and the band conditions were terrible. Lots of QSB and poor signals. I was able to spot via SOTAGoat but had issues getting the app to work correctly. Logging out and back in resolved that. While I didn’t have enough signal for web browsing, sending texts or spots via apps was doable. I had my InReach that I could have used if no cell service was available at all.
After barely getting four contacts in the log, I switched over to digital and went old skool with PSK31. I was set up for FT8, but wanted to try PSK. I had no luck as the signals faded in and out. I did notice some issues of my laptop freezing when the radio was transmitting. The Packtenna random wire really needs either a balun on the coax or a counterpoise to keep the stray RFI off the radio and computer. Considering I had scavenged the counterpoise for parts I wasn’t surprised that I was experiencing RFI. I am currently working a SUL digital interface that has proper toroids on the USB that prevent this issue. Something to be cognizant of if using random wire antennas and laptops.
Not long after, a large group of people with no masks took over the summit, so I pulled everything down and headed back down the mountain. Considering Millinocket (town nearby) was a massive COVID hotspot and even made national news.
On the Air:
CW & Digi
The truth about KWWNM is that it really isn’t for everyone. If you are the type of person who spends time before going out in the woods researching logistics, navigation and creates contingency plans then KWWNM is a good fit for you. If you need a guidebook and an itinerary planned out for you, then you will not enjoy KWWNM as it is super isolated and requires you to choose your own adventure.
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